Thursday, March 6, 2014
In 1998, California passed a ballot measure to ban bilingual education in public schools. Similar initiatives followed in Colorado, Arizona, and Massachusetts, passing in the latter two states. The ban in California led to litigation in Valeria v. Davis, 307 F.3d 103 (9th Cir. 2002), in which plaintiffs alleged the ban was motivated by discriminatory intent. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, finding the state had a legitimate non-discriminatory explanation: its educational judgment that English immersion is the better pedagogy.
A decade and a half after banning bilingual education, the state may be poised to reverse course. State senator Sen. Ricardo Lara has introduced a bill to repeal the ban on bilingual education. He intends to put the issue before voters on the 2016 ballot. Some believe that the politics have sufficiently changed in the state and the bill may pass. Researchers also point out that bilingual education is not just a cultural or individual interest issue. Rather, bilingualism is a valuable economic resource that the state needs to be able to tap. While the economy has become global over the past 15 years, California's education system has effectively demanded that it remain local. For more on the bill and research, see here and here.